HONESTY is an absent art in some government circles in South
Africa nowadays. The truth is doomed.
The lack of honesty motions a dark turn and, last week, the
department of public enterprises took that turn with uncontrolled abandon.
Being economical about the facts is certainly nothing new in
politics. Saying unbelievable things in a believable way is usually the skill
But Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba’s efforts to
calm down the storm around the resignation of eight of the 11 South African
Airways (SAA) board members took things up a notch.
Gigaba accused the outgoing members of the board of lying
about the government’s lack of support.
But looking closely at the finer details of the SAA debacle,
he could have known more than he led the public to believe and might not have
wanted to disclose anything more. What exactly happened at Africa’s biggest
airliner, Mr Minister?
Referring to the eight SAA board members who resigned last
week, Gigaba told a Sunday paper: “It says a lot about their integrity if they
are prepared to go and lie in public.”
Late last week, eight members of the SAA board tendered
their resignations after weeks of drama over the board’s request for a R4-R6bn
They claimed that Gigaba did not support the board’s
turnaround strategy and had failed to table the company’s annual report.
But being the shrewd politician that he is, Gigaba rejected
So, how does Gigaba explain the fact that a R5bn guarantee
was made available by the government a couple of days after the mass
resignation? This is an interesting coincidence.
I think we need to be told when exactly when the R5bn
guarantee was approved. This timeline is very important in this saga.
Something is not clear here. There is no way that Treasury
could have approved any guarantee when there was such volatility at the carrier.
It might be possible that Treasury approved the guarantee a
long time ago, with Gigaba reluctant to let the old board know about it for
reasons known only to him.
I suspect Cheryl Carolus, the former chairperson of the SAA
board, resigned before she could be pushed. Remember, claims abound that Gigaba
did not approve of her turnaround strategy.
Both Gigaba and Carolus have held senior positions in the
ANC, though Carolus is more senior and more experienced.
Gigaba came through the youth league ranks when Carolus was
the national deputy secretary general of the ANC.
The tiff between the two has all the hallmarks of the
ongoing faction fighting leading to the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference in
It does not happen often in government that a senior member
of the ANC gets to be pushed out systematically by another senior ANC official.
ANC members are known for their wholehearted support for each other.
The SAA debacle can only be attributed to the fact that
Carolus and Gigaba belong to different warring factions within the party.
A great deal has been written about the SAA affair and
Gigaba’s attempts to cover up what exactly is at the heart of the fight with
But I’m beginning to worry that many South Africans are
growing tired of having to deal with half-truths, coming as they do in torrents
from government officials all the time.
*Mzwandile Jacks is a freelance journalist.
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